Clynelish 1988-2012, 23yo, Cask ES 009/04, 50% – The First Editions

In a recent purchase I got my hands on some weird older bottles of random distilleries. Some were bottle-shared, some were reserved for tastings, but from all of them I kept a sample for proper assessment.

When, in that set of bottles, there’s an older Clynelish, my interest peaks, and this one is not any different. Clynelish from an era when there was more waxiness than there is now, at a rather respectable age sounds good to me!

Apart from that I don’t have much (if any) experience with bottlings from Edition Spirits, so the bottler was not something to go by.

Of course the cork broke.

Sniff:
Slightly waxy with a hint of metallic minerals. Apples, iron, copper, blood. Dry toast, old bread. Some oak, some barley, but the iron and apples keep leading the way.

Sip:
The palate is quite strong, with lots of bite from the alcohol. Far more than expected. It’s getting dryer with some more time. Dry grist, oak shavings, sawdust. The minerals are toned down a bit, although not completely gone. Slightly waxy, or maybe a bit more focused on resin instead of wax.

Swallow:
The finish is more typical for Clynelish. more waxy, slightly resiny. Some minerals and a hint of coastal salinity. Quite a big finish, long, baked apples, sweeter barley, before it goes back to the more dry notes.

This is a slightly strange one. On one hand there is the expected waxiness, beeswax, candlewax, that is expected. On the other hand there is a surprising and not insignificant austerity.

The minerals are very pronounced, and have a rather tense relation to the waxiness. It’s almost contradictory, but in the end it works quite well.

Strangely, it took me the entire 10cl to come to this conclusion. Initially I didn’t dislike this whisky, but I wasn’t blown away either. However, the further down the level of whisky in the sample bottle went, the more I started liking the whisky and discovering new things.

Initially I wanted to rate this at 87, but I’ve decided to up my score to 89. I actually quite love this one, and will be on the lookout for stuff like this in auctions and such. Of course it’s never going to pop up, since it’s highly popular and the bottler is rare.

89/100

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Ardnamurchan Batch 1 and 2!

Last September the first official release of Ardnamurchan happened. And if you’ve never been to a whisky festival between 2017 and early 2020, you might have never tasted their spirit either.

It’s quite the anticipated distillery, since Adelphi, who runs/owns/built the place have quite the reputation for high quality whisky. They’re not doing anything unique though, they just approach the distilling business with quality front and center.

So, when batch 1 came out, I of course did a bottle share with it. And when batch 2 came out I did it again. As is customary for me, I still needed to give batch 1 a taste, six months after its release. So I did.


Ardnamurchan Inaugural Release, 5 years old, AD 09.20:01, 46.8%

Image from Whiskybae

Sniff:
I’m very surprised by the amount of oak and barley on the nose of this youngster! I was expected much more alcohol on the nose. Vanilla, slightly burnt sponge cake, sweet barley. It’s not very heavy, but it’s quite rich.

Sip:
The palate is pretty smooth, with initially a bit of buttery fattiness. It quickly becomes a bit more dry and brings some bite. Black and white pepper, with dry oak shavings. Sponge cake, vanilla, browned butter. Some baking spices too, clove.

Swallow:
The finish brings more warmth than heat, and this is where the youth of the whisky comes through most. It’s a tad spirity all of a sudden, with more unaged spirit showing up in the flavor. Still dry and grainy, with hints of alcohol sweetness.

86/100


Ardnamurchan, 5 years old, AD 01.21.01, 46.8%

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Slightly alcoholic, slightly burnt apple peels, a light whiff of oak. A hint of cork, dried apples, some cinnamon.

Sip:
The pakate is quite sharp with white pepper. Apples, dried and fresh. Some oak, some spices. Oak spice, mostly. Dried peach. A second sip brings quite a bit of vanilla.

Swallow:
The finish is slightly more sweet, with more dried fruit and slightly less spice. A lot of apple, still.

86/100


At least they’re consistent! Technically the casks used in the whisky are similar, so consistency is what you more or less expect. Of course, that’s not a guarantee for anything!

I like that they whiskies are already quite complex and show some depth and character. What’s good too, is that the spirit comes through as well, so that an extra decade of maturation does not completely overpower it.

As far as I know the spirit is made to be quite robust, and that shows. There’s quite a bit of oomph, even though it’s just baby whisky at this point.

While it’s not going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, they are on to something and I am going to be quite happy keeping an eye out for further releases! Especially when cask strength things will start to happen.

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Guest post: 1980s Springbank, a rare treat

Once more, Tom van Engelen shares his take on things going on in his world of whisky. This time around he reviews a sample he got his hands on, of a Springbank bottling from yonder year.


Image by “Dram Delivery Man”

The 1980s were hard times for the whisky industry and not every distillery was producing in those days. So, when you get your hand on this or that rare gem, such as a 1985 Springbank, you savour the moment.

Sniff:
The very typical minerals one comes to expect from Springbank. Extremely vibrant and alive. Apparently life handed the distillery lemons and Springbank made whisky. Almost painfully nostalgic to enjoy the aroma. I have rarely enjoyed such a balanced dram. After a little longer I notice wet grass after summer rain.

Sip:
A rather center stage whisky, quite hard even though the high alcohol is gentle. The lemons show but with a modest edge from the wood influence. Water is needed. It improves a lot, more dark chocolate and a pleasant waxy character.

Swallow:
Goes down a little too easy. With water it puts on boxing gloves and hits you on the head. Very spicy and hot, like the dragonball candy from the old days, or salty liquorice.

With the extremely balanced nose I started my drinking experience at 95 points but the liquid itself had a more challenging character. Still an extremely impressive Springbank, a clean example of what the distillery consistently offers through the decades.

91/100


About Tom van Engelen

I’m a writer in a variety of fields and have a soft spot for whisky, mainly malt, mainly from Scotland. In other times I enjoyed a stint as editor-in-chief of one of the first whisky magazines in the world. When not sipping a good glass I like to write some more, read, watch 007 movies or listen Bowie music. I’m engaged to Dasha, I have a sweet daughter and I live somewhere between the big rivers in the middle of The Netherlands.

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The Alrik, 1st Fill European Oak Sherry Quarter Cask L1972, 56.5% – Distillery Exclusive

Well, this one takes a bit of explanation. Let’s start with where it’s from.

If you look this bottle up on Whiskybase, it states that The Alrik is made by Hercynian Distilling Co. / Hammerschmiede. Then, if you check that distillery, you’ll see Elsburn, The Alrik and Willowburn as their main brands.

However, what you don’t see is Glen Els, one of Germany’s most well-known single malt brands. The strange thing is that when you look up Glen Els itself you’ll also find The Alrik and Willowburn, but other bottlings too.

As it turns out the Scotch Whisky Association was nagging about a non-Scottish distillery using the word ‘glen’ in their name and has been annoying enough for them to rename the brand.


Then about how the hell I got a bottle of this?

I didn’t go to Germany recently, especially not since May 2020, when this bottling came out. I only bought it last January.

Right after Whiskybase released their annual statistics. Highest rated distilleries and whiskies, and more information like that. What stood out was that The Alrik is one of the most consistently high scoring distilleries in their entire base. This triggered my interest, since I had never heard of it.

Of course, the highest scoring bottles were going for a small fortune on the Marketplace, but I found one that I found acceptably priced. Acceptably only because of me being able to use it in a tasting. What I didn’t see (because I’m an idiot) is that it’s only a 50cl bottle instead of 70cl. The bottle was actually 40% more expensive than I figured until I took it out of the box a few days later. Whoops!


Back to reviewing this, then! A wood smoked single malt from Germany. There’s no age statement, so my guess is that it’s pretty young. Without trying to sound dismissive, but something we have to keep in mind. Heavily sherried whiskies of this color are far more popular in Germany than they are elsewhere. They’re popular here too, but Germans are well known for their voracious appetite for dark whiskies like this. With this bottle being available only in Walkenried, this might affect the average score on Whiskybase not insignificantly.

Sniff:
Massive wood smoke notes, very different to peat smoke. Much more bacon like, and barbecue-y. Sour cherries, almonds, some milk chocolate. It might be suggestive because of the German provenance, but it reminds me of Schwarzwälder Kirsch Torte.

Sip:
The palate is really fatty, with lots of wood-smoke-soot. Barbecue notes and quite some chili pepper bite. Almonds, chocolate, sour cherries, sponge cake. But the wood smoke is rather dominant. Barley notes too.

Swallow:
The finish is a bit more focused on the wood for maturation instead of the wood for smoking. Just as fruity, but more barley distillate driven than before.

This is a dark whisky, and hugely interesting. It’s a shame it’s so expensive to get through the secondary market. It’s really good, and very different from peat smoked whisky, and that is a rather novel approach for a single malt.

Well, I think I’m on the same page as ‘zee Germans’ in this case. The sherry notes are quite big on this wee whisky, but it’s nicely countered by the even more ridiculously big notes of wood smoke and barbecue. It’s a completely ridiculous whisky, in a way. But utterly delicious in another. I’m seriously considering getting another one to ‘test consistency’. That might have to wait a little while though.

89/100

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Writer’s Tears, Mizunara Cask Finish, 55%

To continue with the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration I decided to try my part of the bottle-share of this Writer’s Tears release.

I don’t have too much experience with the brand, but I do remember having a previous cask strength version at a whisky tasting in Den Bosch, at De Whiskykoning, and liking that. So, with a Mizunara cask finish on top of me already liking that, and this whisky being discounted by 25% at WhiskySite, I thought it was a good idea to try and share it. That worked, and for once I was sort of timely in trying it.

In fact, I finished my 10cl in the same night.

Writer’s Tears is one of the two brands of Irish whisky from ‘Walsh Whiskey’. I had to look it up since I automatically assume it was from Midleton, since virtually all brands that are over five years old, and not called Bushmills, Cooley or Connemara are from that distillery / producer. It’s not, as it turns out.

Mizunara is the Japanese name for Japanese Oak. It’s quite rare to see in cask form, although not unheard of. The reason there’s not too many of these casks out there is because it’s not an easy try to make casks out of. In comparison, American oak and Japanese oak:


As you can imagine, the left one has far more straight bits compared to the other, so a lot more planks can be made of a single tree.

Anyway, typical me-rambling to start about different types of oak, especially Japanese oak, in a post on Irish whisky. Let’s do some tasting notes!

Sniff:
Lots of oak, with a hint of incense. Apart from that there’s some wine gum sweetness. Tropical fruit with some boiled candy. A crisp note, with herbs, basil, thyme. Some sawdust, dried apple.

Sip:
The palate has the typical Irish sweetness, but that is counteracted with dry woodiness, sawdust, white pepper, incense, dried apple and pear skins.

Swallow:
The finish isn’t overly interesting. It continues down the same line. However, since the palate is pretty good, the finish is too.

I am quite surprised to find this at not even 84 points on Whiskybase, since I think this deserves more. Compared to normal Writer’s Tears I think the Mizunara cask finish really adds a level of woodiness that is not very common to an already not-bad whisky. It makes it a lot more interesting in my book.

Recommended at € 60!

87/100

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Redbreast 21 (2019 release), 46%

As far as excuses to have a drink go, it being Saint Patrick’s Day is a very good one. Of course, that meant I had to have some Irish whiskey. Luckily, I have some lying around.

Interestingly, I remembered the bottle of Redbreast and Writer’s Tears Mizunara Cask (that only came in yesterday). It was only when I wanted to dig out the Redbreast and I had to move some Waterford out of the way that I remembered that that’s an Irish whiskey too. In my mind, apparently, that’s a Scotch…

About Redbreast then. It’s a whiskey made at Midleton, as are a lot of Irish whiskeys, and I got this bottle when it was discounted a few months ago. Of course, I didn’t really sit down for it soon enough, but I did yesterday.

Sniff:
A lot of tropical fruit, with a sponge cake sweetness. Mango, papaya, orange, lemon drizzle cake. Barley sugar, a whiff of icing.

Sip:
A bit of chili pepper bite. Less oak than I would expect for 21 years old. Dry with dried fruit, fresh fruit. Lots of tropical flavors, sweet pastry with some vanilla and puff pastry.

Swallow:
A huge finish with dry fruit notes, some wood spices. Lots of tropical fruit. Long, long, long.

This, dear reader, is a very, very good whiskey. It has the fruity sweetness and barley sugar that makes it lovely. What it does not have too much of is that wine gum chemical sweetness that generally puts me off older Irish whiskey, generally. So, all the good stuff without the bad stuff.

I think it’s a very good thing that this is bottled at 46%, instead of 43%, or even the 40% of the 12 years old. It can use the extra oomph. Absolutely gorgeous.

91/100

Available for around € 200 in The Netherlands, but it’s cheaper in other countries

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Blair Athol 2015-2020, Oloroso Hogshead 900093, 48% – Skene

Image from Whiskybase

Yet another incredibly young whisky from Skene. This time from Blair Athol distillery in Pitlochy. I visited the distillery about three and a half years ago. I only now realize that I never wrote a blogpost about it. I just might have to revisit at some point.

I do remember having an awesome time there, with a one-on-one tour. I was a bit apprehensive because right before me two touring cars from Edinburgh pulled into the parking lot. Luckily, they were there for the five quid tour and I wanted a bit more!

Anyway, a four or five year old whisky from an Oloroso cask. I know the distillery has quite a rich character in regards to their spirit. It is quite possible that a young whisky from a sherry cask gets a bit too rich then.

What I am also wondering is whether or not this will be as close to the new make of the disitllery as the Tomatin was. That might be interesting!

Sniff:
On the nose it starts with the slightly bitter version of dried fruits. Hints of apricots, plum stones, some wood spices from the oak. The spirit is rather noticeable and has quite a lot of sweetness, to which the sweetness of the cask is added. Some feinty notes too.

Sip:
The palate has a slightly higher ABV (at the time of writing, I didn’t know the ABV), and shows a bit of bite. It is far more cask driven than the nose suggested, though. Lots of dried fruits and lots of wood spices. Apricots, almonds, jam and syrup.

Swallow:
The finish is slightly drier than the palate was, but just as sweet. Apricot jam, almonds, very similar.

Well, what to think of this one. I doubt this would have improved with more time in the cask, since I think the cask is already overly present. The spirit is nicely present on the nose but doesn’t really show itself on the palate, there it’s just oak and sherry, in my opinion.

All in all it is quite drinkable, but it’s more like an overly fortified sherry than a whisky from a sherry cask.

79/100

Available in the UK for £ 40. Thanks for the sample to Skene Whisky itself!

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Jura 8, 1970s bottling, 40%

Jura doesn’t really have a great reputation nowadays, and every time a good one pops up it’s an exception instead of a rule. Quite a shame since it’s a rather pretty distillery.

Within my group of friends we often call some peopel Jura-drinkers as a bit of bad-mouthing each other. With that knowledge, it’s actually quite surprising that I have nine reviews of Jura whiskies on the blog, with this being the tenth.

I got a sample of this when I visited NH in Haarlem, for some shared beers, whiskies and other things. So, thanks to NH for the sample!

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Sweet and funky, bread and something meaty. Boiled beef, some vanilla, wood, corky apples, walnuts.

Sip:
Gentle, some white and black pepper. Oak, moss, minerals. Some walnuts, vanilla, dirt.

Swallow:
Warm, slightly off, beef, butter, wood, stew-like.

So, in a way this fits with modern Jura whiskies. They’re weird and they’re unique. That’s not always a good thing.

The difference is, somehow, that in this case it’s not so over the top as it currently is. Modern Jura generally has a lot of weird cask finishes, and it seems like they’ve doubled down on being unique with their weird notes. They’ve gone so much over the top that’s the modern variant is rather hideous, while in this case it’s a nice and quaint whisky worthy of exploration.

In short, I actually quite like this stuff.

86/100

It’s available in shops for about € 200

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Tomatin 2015-2020, First Fill Oloroso Cask 990461, 50% – Skene

Honestly, when this came in the mail I wasn’t too enthusiastic about it. A 4 or 5 year old Tomatin from a first fill sherry casks. That almost sounds like it’s just some over-fortified sherry in itself, right?

Image from Whiskybase

Also, I don’t have much experience with Skene Whisky, as they’re not available in The Netherlands, and the only sample I got from them before was a 1988 Blended Malt whisky, so something completely different from what this is.

Yesterday I decided it was time to dive in when the entire family was getting a COVID-19 test and I had a quiet moment to myself.

Sniff:
Obviously it is very spirity with a lot of grain alcohol at first. It’s not too sweet, even though new make generally is sweet and first fill sherry casks add more of that. Strangely, there isn’t too much cask influence. You get some dried fruits and a bit of spice that’s not spirit driven, but otherwise it’s the rich sweetness of the new make, mostly.

Sip:
The palate is a bit more dry with a lot of grainy, porridgy spirit. Tropical fruits with oloroso spiciness. Cherry stones, ground almonds, mango and a whiff of clove.

Swallow:
The finish brings a little bit of heat from the spirit itself. Some bitter and fruity oloroso hints. It does stay true to the new make, though.

This is a very strange whisky. It’s just over the hill of being allowed to be called whisky in the first place, but even so. Normally, when a whisky is bottled this young, the oak influence is far more noticeable and that’s why it was bottled that young. I don’t think that’s the case for this one.

It’s remarkably spirity, and I would have believed it if this was just one year old spirit instead of four years old.

However, having said all that, I actually like this very much. Generally I’m not a huge fan of new make spirit, although it’s fun to try when visiting a distillery. In this case it’s very close to that, but with just enough other flavors from the oloroso cask to be a lot more interesting.

Although, because of it’s spiritiness it stays very true to Tomatin’s product, straight out of the distillery. So yes, I do very much like this. Of course it doesn’t have the complexity of an 18 year old whisky, and it is a tad on the sweet side, it has a lot to offer and is a completely different approach to modern whisky.

86/100

Available in the UK for £ 35. I would buy one if I could get it here.

Thanks to Skene for the sample!

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Yellow Rose Rye Whiskey, 45%

I’ve only had one earlier sip of a Yellow Rose whisky from Texas, and that one I didn’t like. However, that was a bourbon and this is a rye whisky, so things might be different.

Yellow Rose is the first distillery to open in recent years in Houston. There might be others now, and we do know there are other distilleries in Texas, just none in Houston. They claim to make hand-crafted whisky, but it’s always a bit unclear what that actually means.

In this case, my guess would be that they’re not heavily industrialized and of small scale. Which I think is a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with being big and industrialized, although small batch products tend to be more unique and interesting. Not necessarily good, but interesting.

Image from Yellow Rose Distilling

Sniff:
It has that typical ‘young craft whisky’ nose. It’s not something everyone likes, but I generally see it as an indicator for interesting things to happen. It’s slightly rough around the edges, and the typical off-note I also found in their bourbon is here. Rotting vegetables, some rye bread, a metallic note.

Sip:
The palate is dry with hints of wood, old apples and cork. Some peppery heat (black pepper) and rye spiciness. The off-note, the rotting vegetables, is till here, but slightly camouflaged by the black pepper and rye notes.

Swallow:
Again, it’s a bit harsh and rough around the edges. That’s not bad, it gives it a bit of bite. Rye spices, metallic notes. Not overly long.

Well, this whisky has several problems, I think.

First there’s that off-note. There’s just no way around it, and it doesn’t make for a good drinking experience. Secondly, apart from that off-note, there’s just not much interesting happening.

It’s a rye whisky but not one with a memorable way of presenting itself. Well, except the note of cucumber left too long at the back of your fridge and gone all soggy.

The bourbon had an off-note too, but a better one than this one does, strangely.

Could it be that this is just too young? It doesn’t say ‘straight’, so it is very likely to be under four years old. Maybe some more wood interaction can take some of the weirdness off of it?

65/100

Sample from Norbert, thanks!

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